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When Lanes 1-8 Are Filled, Run Down Memory Lane

Published by
Benjamin.Bradley   Feb 14th 2012, 6:25am

Rays from the hot summer sun shined down on the track that scorching day on May 17, 2008. The thermostat on the atmosphere seemingly decided to turn itself up just to make a challenging day of races that much more difficult. “It was 110 in the shade,” as the song goes. Today was the second, and championship, day of our high school’s conference races in Bend, Oregon. Shane, Garrett, JJ, and I sat on the high school football field performing our prerace stretches and warm ups as we awaited the 4x400 meter relay to be announced.

From the moment the meet had begun to now, my three running-mates and I had seen the rise and fall of other teammates of ours. We, ourselves, had suffered some losses, but had also gained great victory; none of that seemed as important as what now lay before us. I could feel it, and I could see it in the eyes of my teammates, it was once again time for another 4x4 race. The 4x4 has always been the last event held at any high school meet I have been to. Our teammates, various fans, and the teammates of our opposition lined the track to watch the representatives of their designated school’s run as one for the one mile relay race. Whether one is in the competition, or merely a spectator at the event, there is clearly an electric atmosphere that runs alongside this particular race and starts anyone’s adrenaline flowing. Our race though, this race that had my team’s nerves jumping, was no ordinary 4x4.

The four of us were seniors in high school now, all destined to go our separate ways after graduation, and it had been several years since our school had been represented by a 4x400 meter relay team at the Oregon State Championships in Eugene. The upcoming minutes meant so much to all of us, our whole team, and our school. The top two teams to cross the finish line at the conference meet are the two teams that go on to the state championship and we wanted it.

Stepping up to the starting line, we all knew getting to Eugene would be no easy task. Our conference was home to four of the top ten ranked 4x4 teams in the 5A state division, but only two of us get to move on. The starter gave the directions for the race and the last three legs of the relay for each team stepped off the track as the first leg of each team got into position to begin what would seem like the longest relay race of my life. The gun went off and Shane began our team’s race with a quick start. 360 meters to go for Shane and Garrett would receive our golden baton. Those 360 meters did not pass by as fast as my teammates and I would have liked as we screamed and cheered for Shane down the last stretch. Five other teams were ahead at this point. Worry and nerves seemed to boil within JJ and I as Shane handed the baton along to Garrett. Our second leg began his race the way he always began his 400 meter races… very slowly. I stepped onto the track, lined behind five other teams as Garrett held sixth place. On the back 200 meters of Garrett’s race though, he put his legs into gear and came flying down that last 100 meters toward me. All my nerves and worries sprung out of me as I began my race and felt my grip tighten around the baton as my leg of the relay began. My eye was on the prize and would settle for nothing less. I rounded the corner of the first 100 meters, tearing up track trying to gain better position. Fifth place, my mind told me as I passed one opposing runner. Down the back 100 meter stretch, I settled into a comfortable near-sprint as I slowly gained ground on the four runners ahead of me. Starting to turn the corner of the last 200 meters I imagined myself contracting like a coiled spring that would soon have to release. Passing the 250 meter mark, I began to pass the team in fourth. Being very unsportsmanlike, the fourth place runner kept cutting me off and spiking my leg as I attempted to pass him in an outside lane. A flash of anger crossed my mind with 130 meters to go and it was time for this spring to be sprung. I felt myself dig into the track and tore passed the fourth place runner and into the last 100 meter straight away. Three to go, my mind said and suddenly those three did not seem so far ahead. As I came back across the starting line and handed the baton to JJ, the gap between him and the first place racer had lessened from nearly 25 meters to 12 meters. As I stepped off the track, finishing the fastest 4x400 meter leg I had ever ran, I let out one loud, “RUN JJ!!!” and collapsed to the ground in exhaustion and released bits of my lunch from their intestinal prison. I silently rested on hands and knees with my eyes closed in the grass and prayed for JJ to make a miracle happen. Suddenly the crowd went crazy. Above all the noise, I could hear my sprint coach shouting, “GO JJ! GOOOOOO!!!!!” and I rose from the ground to see my friend coming down the last 100 meters of the entire race running 6 meters ahead of the next three teams. JJ crossed the finish line and raised his two index fingers to the sky and Shane, Garrett, and I instantly found ourselves embracing him as we all screamed in celebration and the rest of our track team sprinted onto the track and engulfed us like a giant amoeba.

We had made it to state, with the fastest time our team had yet run, but even better, we did it in seemingly miraculous fashion. Video of that race still gives me goose-bumps and makes me so proud to this day. It is fun to take a trip down memory lane every now and then, especially when you have memories like this that can put a smile on your face for the rest of the day.

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